Eight men who were caught not wearing face masks in public as part of coronavirus mitigation efforts faced an unusual punishment last week. They were made to dig the graves of some who died of COVID-19, according to Tribune News.
The punishment was meant as both a warning to others and to fill a legitimate need. Cerme district head, Haryono Suyono, told The Tribune News there weren’t enough people to dig graves as people continue to die from COVID-19 complications, and here were these men who had to choose to either pay a fine or do community service as a punishment for going against local COIVD-19 ordinances and not wearing masks in public places. They chose community service.
Suyono said, “There were only three who dug the graves, so they were sentenced to help dig. They did not bury them. We appeal to the public to use masks as a form of implementing health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The novice gravediggers were not made to move or handle the bodies. Their job was to dig and to place boards at the bottom of the grave “to support the corpse,” according to the Jakarta Times.
Indonesia Is One of the Hardest Hit Countries in Asia For Coronavirus Cases and Deaths & East Java has Some of the Highest Mortality Rates
In July the World Health Organization reported that East Java became the province with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia. It’s one of the most densely populated areas in that nation, with a population of nearly 40 million, according to Statista.
According to WHO, “On 16 July, the Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture stated that the residents’ lack of discipline in adhering to physical distancing has contributed to the increase in COVID-19 transmission.”
As of Sept. 14, Indonesia has reported 221,523 total cases of COVID-19, with 158,405 recovered. There have been a total of 8,841 deaths from the disease, according to the Jakarta Times. WHO reported on Sept. 9, “59.3% of confirmed cases were in Java: DKI Jakarta, East Java and Central Java are the three top provinces in terms of number of confirmed cases,” with East Java having the second-highest number of cases in Indonesia. It had the third-highest death rate from COVID-19.
Indonesia’s COVID-19 tasks force recently discussed “Effective approaches for behavior change in Indonesia,” with WHO, and said they were looking at ways to “change interventions with the objective to increase public discipline in implementing key health protocols such as wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining physical distance to reduce COVID-19 transmission.”
It is not mentioned whether being made to dig graves for COVID-19 victims is one of the ways discussed to “increase public discipline.”
Health Care Workers in Indonesia are Dying From COVID-19 at High Rates & The Nation Already Has a Shortage of Doctors & Nurses
Nearly 200 medical workers have died from COVID-19, the Associated Press reported on Sept. 9. Most of them were doctors and nurses.
WHO’s situation report published on the same date gets more specific, saying, “104 doctors have died of COVID-19 as of Sept. 2, including two final-year resident doctors and one pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Twenty-eight of these doctors were based in East Java, 22 in DKI Jakarta, 18 in North Sumatra and the remaining in various regions of the country. The Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI) reported that 70 nurses had died of COVID-19 as of 31 August 3. In addition, nine dentists have died of COVID-19.”
The number of medical professionals dying is especially worrisome because the nation already has a low number per capita of doctors and nurses. According to WHO, there are only 1.3 physicians and 8.2 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people.
The Associated Press reported Nurul Nadia, a public health expert from the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives, said, “Our health system is weak, the number of doctors is not ideal, the number of specialist doctors is very few and many have become victims of COVID-19 now.”